Part-Time Student, Full-Time Mom
By Madeleine Jepsen
“I never set out to be a mom,” senior Dani Adams said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I figure I would get married and have kids, much less while I was in college.”
Yet after meeting her husband, Luke Adams, at Hillsdale, she did just that. Her oldest, two-year-old Kyrie Adams, was still an infant when she and her husband were in their junior year.
First-time parenthood has its challenges, but caring for a baby while still in school added another dimension to parenthood. Coordinating class schedules with work and finding time for homework became particularly challenging.
“Usually, whoever was going up for the first class would walk or get dropped off, and between hours we’d drive up with the baby, switch who was driving, and repeat the whole thing. That was kind of an adventure,” Dani said. She and her husband learned to postpone homework until after the baby was down to sleep, unless one of them had an exam or paper due the next day.
“Otherwise, it would just end up with someone getting grumpy because they felt like they weren’t getting anything accomplished, and the toddler feels like she’s not getting any attention. That was our dedicated family time to unwind and check in,” she said.
The college’s motto, “Strength rejoices in the challenge,” became especially real for Dani, from the daily grind to the trial of finals week.
“My favorite memories are actually the days when I would get up hours before class so I had time to feed the baby, get myself ready, and still make it in for an 8:00 a.m. class.” She laughed. “Those all sound like really terrible things, but it was a lot of character building and endurance during that time.”
After Luke graduated and Dani took several part-time semesters, the scheduling got a little easier. Dani’s parents would also help watch the kids during times like finals week. Her mother’s advice helped Dani remain positive as she navigated day-to-day life.
“I never stopped and asked myself, ‘How hard is what I’m doing?’” she said. “It was just kind of, ‘Okay, what’s the next right thing we can do? What’s the way we can get through the next week?’”
There were plenty of lighthearted memories, too: everything from relaxing family walks during the summer to attempting a class about beer while pregnant (which she called a “swish-and-spit class,” but she still enjoyed it). Plus, the couple still knew students on campus, so there was never a shortage of babysitters and visitors at their apartment.
“It became an environment people knew was like home—stable and relaxed. I had no idea how kid-hungry college students can be,” she said. “I got to know my friends in a very different way, because most of them were watching us more than my husband or I realized.”
Her marriage and children also gave her a perspective on her education that she would not have had otherwise. While unmarried students can focus on their own individual growth and career preparation, parenthood supersedes that.
“I think getting married was one of the best things that could have happened to us in college, just because it puts everything into perspective,” she said. “College is a really big deal, but there are things outside of the world of college that are much bigger than the four years you’re going to spend learning and developing yourself as a person.”
In a few years, when Dani has wrapped up her biochemistry coursework at Hillsdale and her kids begin school, she said she may pursue a master’s degree through an online program either in biomedical informatics or brewing science—an interest she discovered when she learned that some of the compounds in craft beers are beneficial for nursing mothers.
“That was the only thing that introduced me to craft beer,” she said of the path that introduced her and her husband to home-brewing. “It’s our shared hobby, which is great.”
Down the road, she and her husband may open their own brewery.
Regardless of where the future takes Dani and her family, she said her experience as a mother during her college years shaped her perspective on life and enhanced her time as an undergraduate student.
“We had two years of the typical college experience, and two years as parents, and I think the better two were the ones we were married,” she said. “The added restriction of being married and having a family forces you to focus in a way you don’t have to when you’re single. Your education becomes something you work on for your family, and not for yourself.”
Madeleine Jepsen, ‘18, studies biochemistry and journalism. Outside the classroom, Madeleine serves as a reporter and assistant editor for the Collegian. She is also involved in Catholic Society.